POLL: O'Farrell defends CSG record, protest response 

PREMIER Barry O’Farrell has defended his government’s record on coal seam gas and response to protesters at Fullerton Cove, in the absence of a final strategic regional land-use policy aimed at sorting out conflicts between mining and agriculture.

Mr O’Farrell, who is due to visit the Hunter Region today to open the WesTrac plant at Tomago, said ‘‘I wish that I could unpick’’ coal seam gas exploration licences granted under the former Labor government, but that doing so could open the state up to compensation liabilities.

Mr O’Farrell told 2GB’s Alan Jones, a vocal opponent of coal seam gas expansion, there were ‘‘active discussions’’ between the government and the company behind the proposed Rocky Hill open-cut coalmine near Gloucester in an effort to get the ‘‘company to voluntarily retreat’’ from areas closest to residences.

Mr O’Farrell said he had confidence in the Planning Assessment Commission to consider the merits and impacts of project proposals.

Asked about Fullerton Cove, where residents have protested against Dart Energy’s coal seam gas pilot program under its exploration licence, Mr O’Farrell said: ‘‘There are proposals that have been approved in the past including this one that if we were to stop them the government would be liable for compensation.’’

Mr O’Farrell said he would be ‘‘happy’’ to provide the advice. His office declined to provide a copy yesterday.

A number of exploration licences issued under the former government, such as AGL’s licence over the vineyards, have expired and are awaiting renewal.

Mr O’Farrell said the government’s strategic land-use plan, which proposes a gateway assessment process for mining production projects, would entail experts considering the environmental effects. A final version of the policy is yet to be released.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said blaming the former Labor government was a ‘‘cop-out’’ given the state and federal governments had approved Dart Energy’s pilot program in June. ‘‘He’s been the Premier now for 18 months.’’  

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